Practice Report: Day 2 of spring training

The second day of spring football practice was held in the Indoor Practice Facility. Once again, Coach Ed Orgeron was pleased with the energy level and effort given by the players, but he was not pleased with the number of mistakes on both sides of the ball. Roughly 450 fans attended the practice, as the fan frenzy for the new grid program continues to rise. The Rebs will practice in full pads Friday at 3:45 p.m.

Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff did a lot of installation of the new offense and defense today in a 2-hour and 45-minute practice. He had mixed emotions on the outcome of the workout.

"We added more offense and defense to our packages today and while I thought our players knew what to do in those situations, we had more errors than we needed to," Ed began. "On offense, I like the way our running game is developing, but we put the ball on the ground too many times today. We must have had three or four fumbles, counting all the drills and reps, and that's too many. We must eliminate that. It's important to run the ball effectively, which we did at times, but it's more important to take care of it.

"There were a lot of positives and negatives today. From an effort and enthusiasm standpoint, I was very pleased. The players' eyes weren't as big today as they were the first day because they knew what to expect. We didn't finish strong the first day because I think the guys were fatigued from being anxious early on. Today, I thought we finished the practice much better and guys were more relaxed. I saw a lot of enthusiasm when someone would make a big play - that's what we want."

At the end of practice, the Rebs held a team competition period - offense versus defense. If the offense gained four yards on a play, they got a point. If the defense held the offense to under four yards on a play, they got a point. The winner would have to run less at the end of practice during the sprint period. Today, the defense won.

"The offense started out ahead, but the defense caught up and passed them toward the end," Ed smiled, noting that the ref may have been biased toward the defense. "That's fun - to create competition with a reward at stake in practice. Everyone was battling to win. That's the atmosphere we want to create. We want to put them in pressure situations and see how they respond."

Orgeron is in a different situation now for the first time in his career. In the past, he has always cheered for the defense. And while he is still the defensive coordinator for the Rebs, he now has to be just as concerned about the offense succeeding too.

"All my life, I've cheered for the defense. I still do, but we need the offense to do well too. It's different for me now, but fun," he explained. "When I see a big play now, I'm excited for the side that made it, but I have mixed emotions for the side of the ball that gave it up."


* Signee J.D. Lawhorn, a wide receiver from MUS in Memphis, attended practice again today. He said after watching Monday's practice, and the pace involved, he felt it would be wise to get a head start on his report date in the summer. "The more I watch the tempo, the more I realize how much work I need to do between now and June," he said. J.D, said signees Rob Park, a punter from MUS, and Michael Oher, the OL from Briarcrest, would attend Friday's practice or Saturday's scrimmage.

* We don't know much about "other" teams in the SEC, other than what we saw last year, but if there is a faster linebacking unit than Patrick Willis, Kelvin Robinson and Garry Pack in the SEC, we haven't seen it. Auburn's LBs were extremely fast and active and one of the big reasons they went 13-0 last year. We feel ours are comparable in the speed department and being able to go sideline-to-sideline. In our estimation, the LBs are one of the bright spots for 2005. While we fret some about the backups, Marquis McBeath was getting some pats on the back today for how active and effective he was. If his shoulders hold up next year, he could be just what the doctor ordered for an effective backup in case of injury or to get some quality snaps.

* It appeared the Rebel coaches were experimenting some with some position changes today. We don't know if they will stick or not, or what today's evaluations of the practice tape will indicate to the caoches, but DE Brandon Jenkins was working a lot today at DT. CB Travis Johnson worked some today at free safety. Also, Jamarca Sanford, who has been playing free safety, worked at cornerback exclusively today. All these moves seem to be moves to get more speed on the field, as Orgeron said he would do.

* Coach O has asked us not to list a depth chart. We gladly adhere to his wishes - his team, his rules. But some things were very apparent today in practice. One, Micheal Spurlock got more snaps than any of the quarterbacks and was given the chance to direct the number one offense more than the others. His passing was on the money most of the day, even though the receivers did not support him as well as they should have with some catches they should have made and normally do make. . . . Two, WR Burnell Wallace, a recent signee who is going through spring drills, is getting quality reps in the main rotation already. Burnell, from our observations, definitely needs some time in the weight room getting stronger, but the speed and hands are there for him to build on. . . . Three, FB Jason Cook is making an impact with some solid blocking in the running game and is showing good hands on the swing routes. Cook redshirted last year and appears to have made the most of his redshirt year. . . Four, from the amount of reps being distributed on the OL, it appears OG James McCoy has fallen off the map at the left guard slot. Hopefully, that's a temporary thing and James will snap out of whatever it is that's holding him back.

* The Rebs were in helmets and shorts today, but that did not stop the amount of contact they had up front. We cannot see where putting on shoulder pads is going to make a whole lot of difference as physical as today's practice got. And Orgeron said as much. "We'll do a little more knocking in full pads, but not any more tackling for now," he said. "We like physical practices. Football is a physical game. What we are doing now is controlled contact, but the guys are mixing it up pretty good."

* When Orgeron said everyone was going to get a fresh start and the depth chart was "etched in sand," he meant it. Players who appear to be getting a new lease on their football lives include SS Keith Houston, DT Dedrick Clark, DE Viciente DeLoach, WR Carlos Suggs and SS Kareem Moore, who were somewhat buried on last year's depth chart but are getting equal looks this spring under the new staff.

* QB Robert Lane threw a bomb today that appeared to be over everyone's head, but senior WR Taye Biddle showed why he is one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league. He simply turned on the afterburners, pulled away from the cornerback and made a diving catch of a ball that looked uncatchable. Head-shaking speed from Biddle.

* DE Jayme Mitchell, DT Jeremy Garrett and LB Patrick Willis all registered QB sacks in team drills today. . . CB Terrell Jackson had a fumble recovery of a Vashon Pearson miscue in the competition period, but Vashon saved face by ripping off a 25-yard run shortly after that. . . CB Dustin Mouzon had an interception of a Lane pass. Lane was scrambling out of trouble and flipped the ball to the flat where Mouzon, a redshirt frosh, was waiting.

* Orgeron commented he was pleased with the development of the running game. Several players can be commended for their part in that development. Most of the yardage is coming off the hips of senior tackles Tre' Stallings and Bobby Harris, behind the blocking of fullbacks Jason Cook and Anthony Hobgood. But Jamal Pittman and Pearson have also been impressive carryin the rock - Pearson's moves and vision continue to improve and the 10 pounds Jamal has taken off has helped his speed and quickness noticeably.

* With the pace the team is going at in practice, we expected major fatigue problems, but they have not cropped up, for the most part. Why? Offseason preparation. New S&C Coach Aaron Ausmus told all the players that he had seen Orgeron in action in practices at USC and he knew what they were in for. He told them he was going to "bust their tails" for two weeks prior to spring drills to get them ready for it. Several players have thanked him for the "advance notice" and preparation.

* The Rebs worked two periods of special teams today - punt/punt return, kickoff/kickoff return - but there was no kicking taking place. It was all about coverage and return techniques on both sides of the ball. An interesting sidebar: ST Coordinator Chris Rippon prefers the terminology "punt block" versus "punt return." His philosophy is that if an opposing punt team has to worry about pressure all the time, and give that part of their punt team more attention, the return game will take care of itself and have openings. Punt teams will not release as quickly giving returns more time to develop. Makes sense to us.

* The Rebs will practice Friday in full pads at 3:45 p.m. Saturday's full pad practice will start at 11 a.m. with a 12:15 p.m. scrimmage as the highlight of the week.

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